Playing on the PGA Tour for the first time this year, Norman disqualified himself Friday in the Honda Classic after incorrectly playing a provisional tee shot on the 13th hole.
Norman hit a provisional tee shot because he thought his ball went into a water hazard. The rules allow for a provisional only if the original ball is believed to be lost or out-of-bounds, not in a hazard.
His original tee shot turned out to be safe, in a bunker, but Norman's mistake was not playing the provisional.
Norman, even par at the time and in position to make the cut, left Mirasol without comment.
'I don't think he was real happy,' PGA Tour rules official Slugger White said. 'I talked to him on the phone. He was OK. He just said he messed up.'
Roger Maltbie, an NBC Sports analyst and former player, was the first to notice the violation.
'I was trying to keep the man from getting DQ'ed,' Maltbie said. 'I know plenty of people knew what was going on. It wouldn't go away. There was an infraction of the rules.'
Norman hit his tee shot to the right on the par-4 13th, a dogleg right framed down the right side by a hazard. Fred Couples, who was in the threesome, said the volunteer marshal didn't make it clear whether the ball stayed on the course or went into the hazard.
After Couples and Charles Howell III hit their drives, Norman said he was going to play a provisional tee shot for a ball in the water hazard.
White cited the 'Decisions of Golf' under Rule 27-2a on provisional balls.
Under these circumstances - Norman hitting a provisional for the wrong reason - the second shot became the ball in play. And even though he found his original shot in the bunker, that ball was no longer in play.
Norman's mistake was picking up the second shot and playing his original tee ball from the bunker. He hit wedge into 15 feet and three-putted for bogey.
Norman could have fixed his mistake.
White said Norman would have had to return to where his second tee shot landed (in the fairway). He would have been lying three, then assessed a two-shot penalty for playing the wrong ball (his original tee shot in the bunker, which at that point had been declared out of play).
That means Norman would have been hitting his sixth shot into the green.
'He chose not to do that,' White said. 'He said, 'I'm disqualified,' and left. And that's the way we left it.'
Couples said he wasn't aware of the rule, and everything happened quickly.
Maltbie knew it well, calling the rule 'pretty basic.'
'The next thing I see is Greg re-teeing,' Maltbie said. 'As Greg walked down the fairway, I said to him, 'Greg, you're not entitled to play a provisional ball in the water hazard.' He said, 'Fine, then give me two shots.' I said, 'I'm not the rules guy here.''
Rules official Steve Rintoul laid out the situation to Norman, who declined to go back to the fairway. At best, Norman would have made triple-bogey 7 to go 3 over, with three of the toughest holes awaiting him.
'There would be no reason (to keep playing) unless he really, really liked us,' Couples said. 'I think I'd have done the same thing - bye, see ya later. He hasn't been playing much, and he was playing well. I'm sure he didn't want that to happen.'
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